ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by J.R. Solonche

Gerald Stern

You see, it's all crazy, all crazy.
There is a tree, a sycamore.
And there is the Ohio.
There is the Oder.
They are one river.
There is slavery.
And there is the Holocaust.
They are one abomination.
They are like two rivers flowing one into
the other to make one river.
The Ohio and the Oder are one river.
It's all crazy, so crazy.
You see, we are all crazy like that sometimes.
You see, the world does that sometimes.
It makes us into its own crazy image.
You see, some more than others,
some more often than others,
some for longer than others.



Finding a Flower Pressed between Pages of the 1887 Edition of The Early Poems of John Greenleaf Whittier

There is no point in wondering who put it here,
or why, although such wandering
might make some pressing poetry.

There is no message here, no mystery in this flower
for curiosity to open up or code to break.
Judging from the size and shape, it is perhaps a lily.

 There is no color anymore.
A lily. Perfect if it is a lily.
Perfect if it is a lily in a book of verse.

Some sentimentalist put a lily in this book,
in the poem "The Bridal of Pennacook."
Perhaps it was a little girl.

But no. It must have been a bride.
A bride must have put this lily here.
A bride left this lily here, and what is left of her

is less than this, and what is known of her
is only this: This part of the paper,
this part of the poem, this once a flower,

once a lily, this lily's ghost, this dry and brittle, at most
like a brown leaf in the book The Early Poems of Greenleaf,
in the poem "The Bridal of Pennacook."



Improvisation on a Line of Wallace Stevens: "The Fault Lies With an Over-Human God."

The fault lies with an over-human god.
Too familiar therefore contemptible,
he makes us break the mirror of himself.
He speaks in the dark accents of our tribe
and in the numbers of our victories.
His iron words were forged in our fires.
Nothing was alien to us except
the law that we learned by heart in one
generation. He was a holy man
with no desert, a dreamer with no sleep.
He was lonelier than the leper is.
We took him in. What did we want of him?
We wanted him to be our opposite,
our window to a better world than ours,
not a mirror. We used our shields for that.




Three chapters
Seventy three verses
Longer than that of Haggai
But what son is named Haggai
Longer than that of Habakkuk
But what son is named Habakkuk
Longer than that of Zephariah
But what son is named Zephariah

Three chapters
Seventy three verses
Here are verses

That which the palmerworm hath left
hath the locust eaten
And that which the locust hath left
hath the cankerworm eaten
And that which the cankerworm hath left
hath the caterpillar eaten

And here are verses

The seed is rotten under their clods
The garners are laid desolate
The barns are broken down
For the corn is withered

Are here are verses

Gather the people, sanctify the congregation,
Assemble the elders, gather the children,
And those that suck the breasts:
Let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber,
And the bride out of her closet

And most of all here are verses

And it shall come to pass afterward,
That I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions

And he wrote so little,
this Joel,
this minor prophet of the Old Testament
He wrote so little,
this Joel

Does anybody know anything about him,
this Joel,
this minor prophet of the Old Testament
I for one know nothing of him
And I of all people should know of him
I who am named for him
And a man should know all there is of the man
whose name he has
And I know nothing of this Joel

He said so little
Three chapters
Seventy three verses
So he must not have been a professional
this Joel, 
this minor prophet of the Old Testament

It is obvious he was not a professional
as was Isiah who said sixty six chapters
or Jeremiah who said fifty two chapters
or Ezekiel who said forty eight chapters

It is obvious this Joel was a part time prophet only

It is obvious he did not support himself with prophesying
He must have practiced a trade, this Joel, this minor prophet
He must have been a shepherd, or a potter of pots
He must have been a scribe, or a weaver of cloth
He must have been a vinedresser, or a mender of tents
He must have been a civil servant, he wrote so little

He wrote so little,
this Joel, 
this minor prophet
of three chapters only
this prophet of concise consternation



The Guide of the Perplexed

When I was nineteen or twenty,
I started to read
"The Guide of the Perplexed"
by Moses Maimonides.
I was nineteen or twenty.
I was perplexed.
I needed a guide.
I read a few pages.
Perhaps I read a chapter.
I don't remember.
But I soon realized I needed a guide to the guide.
I have never gone back to read more
of "The Guide of the Perplexed"
by Moses Maimonides.
He should have illustrated
the text with pictures of flowers.
Roses would have done nicely.
Or daisies.


J.R. Solonche has been publishing in magazines, journals, and anthologies since the early 70s. He is author of Beautiful Day (Deerbrook Editions), Won't Be Long (Deerbrook Editions), Heart's Content (Five Oaks Press), Invisible (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize by Five Oaks Press), The Black Birch (Kelsay Books), I, Emily Dickinson & Other Found Poems (Deerbrook Editions), In Short Order (forthcoming in April from Kelsay Books), and coauthor of Peach Girl: Poems for a Chinese Daughter (Grayson Books). He lives in New York's Hudson Valley.

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